Preservation Underway on Veterans’ Monuments

July 28, 2022

Anna (Annie) Francis Kendall Freitag (1830-1905) became a nurse for the U.S. Army early in the Civil War. She first met her husband, Frederick (Fred) Daniel Freitag, when he was recovering from wounds at the hospital where she was stationed in 1862. Later on, Fred suffered a breakdown in 1886 and died two years after that. Annie’s pension file is a unique resource today: a rare primary source to specifically discuss a Civil War soldier’s mental health in addition to physical health, attributing both to his war wounds.

Originally from Virginia, Lieutenant Albert Allmand (1826-1857) entered the U.S. Navy in 1841. His career included service on eight ships, including helping patrol the African coast on the USS Cumberland to suppress the slave trade in 1857. He died soon after, when the ship was at the Navy Yard in Charlestown, MA. After his military funeral, he was buried at Mount Auburn in the Saint John’s Public Lot, a section for single grave interments (for people who had no use for, or could not afford, a large family lot). His marble headstone evokes his naval career with a relief of drapery, anchor, and cannon.

These are just a few of the many diverse stories of veterans commemorated at Mount Auburn, from throughout our nation’s history. This summer, our Preservation team has been working on much-needed treatment for the monuments to Freitag, Allmand, and eight other veterans from the pre-Civil War and Civil War period (see below for complete list). Most of their memorials include text documenting their service, like military rank or battles in which some died. Many also feature military-inspired carved imagery, making them an important, evocative funerary art form.

However, after years of outdoor exposure, these monuments urgently needed preservation to keep them intact for future generations. Thanks to a matching grant that we have received from the Mass. SHRAB Veterans’ Heritage program, our Preservation department has been able to give them the care that they need.

Preservation highlight: we had already identified that the monument to Full Private Jacob Merrifield (1842-1868) contains extensive inscription for its size, and it likely documents his military service, but it had become undecipherable over time. Thanks to the work that has already been completed so far, we are optimistic that one of our inscription expert volunteers will be able to decipher and record it after the full treatment is done – underscoring the importance of preservation to prevent the permanent loss of stories like his.

So far, our skilled team has cleaned all of the monuments, reset the foundations of six of them, and corrected a failed past repair from over two decades ago on one. The to-do list for the rest of the year includes follow-up cleaning (after six months) and stone consolidation work on all of the marble monuments. This treatment will stabilize the stones, preserve sculptural elements and inscriptions, and ensure the long-term survival of these important and threatened cultural artifacts.

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Veterans’ monuments in this project

Albert Allmand (1826-1857), Lot 1736-337 Fir Avenue
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, from 1841 until his death in 1857.

Gurdon S. Brown (1832-1889), Lot 1722 Cypress Avenue
First Lieutenant in Company A of the 30th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (MVI) in the Civil War.

Jonathan Homer Cheney, Jr. (1844-1881), Lot 829 Fir Avenue
Private in Company E of the 44th Regiment, in the Civil War.

George H. Conant (1821-1863), Lot 1284 Geranium Path
First Lieutenant (previously First Sergeant and Second Lieutenant) in Company C of the 10th Iowa Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. He was killed in action on November 25, 1863, on Missionary Ridge, TN, in the last of the three-day Battles of Chattanooga. The Union army victory there became known as “the death-knell of the Confederacy.” Conant’s remains were sent to Massachusetts to be buried with his family at Mount Auburn.

James J. Dow (1839-1864), Lot 3579 Saffron Path
Corporal in Company F of the 24th Regiment, MVI, which served with the Coast Division in the Civil War. Dow was killed in action in Deep Run, VA, and his remains were returned home to be buried with his family at Mount Auburn.

Anna (Annie) Francis Kendall Freitag (1830-1905), Lot 193 Ivy Path
U.S. Army Nurse from early in the Civil War until 1864.

Jacob C. Merrifield (1842-1868), Lot 3912 Cypress Avenue
Full Private in Company I of the 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment. He was initially rated as a Full Blacksmith, a key position in a cavalry company. Blacksmiths in the Civil War were responsible for shoeing horses (particularly important in cavalry regiments such as Merrifield’s) and repairing wagons and artillery equipment. Merrifield was later promoted to Full Private.

Samuel D. Phillips (1838-1862), 1259 Elder Path
Military Superintendent of Plantations during the Civil War. His role was part of the Port Royal Experiments, which were intended to help people who were newly freed from enslavement prepare for their independence. This included working land abandoned by plantation owners after the Union army captured the Sea Islands off the South Carolina coast in 1861, as well as education programs organized by Northern charity organizations.

Alexander Wilson (1814-1882), Lot 4777 Clethra Path
Private in Company B of the 42nd Regiment, MVI in the Civil War.

John A. Wilson (1843-1910), Lot 4777 Clethra Path
Artificer or skilled craftsman in Company C of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Civil War. The Corps of Engineers’ duties included planning and erecting defenses, constructing and destroying roads and bridges, placing and removing obstructions, conducting topographical surveys during campaigns, reconnoitering enemy works, and preparing and distributing accurate maps.

About the Author: Anna Moir

Grants & Communications Manager View all posts by Anna Moir →

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